Helping ghostwriting clients get unstuck
Our job as ghostwriters is to aid clients in getting their ideas down on paper. Once background material is gathered, we are typically responsible for arranging it in an orderly fashion that is interesting to read. The result is a professional quality article or case study, speech, email message, blog post, or book.
But it all starts with the client and the information they are able and willing to share. You’d think that clients who have taken the step of finding and hiring a professional ghostwriter would be raring to go, but through no fault of their own, this is not always the case. Sometimes clients simply have no idea what information will be useful to you or they may lack the time to stop and think about what they want included in the document you’re working on.
This is a problem for you if you are relying on information from the client to get started or move forward on the project you’ve been hired to do. How can you write a chapter of a book, for example, if the client hasn’t provided any information or direction on what the chapter should include?! Or how can you draft a blog post about an important new study if your client hasn’t pointed you to the study itself. You can’t, really.
Sure, you could do your own research, based on your own assumptions about what the client wants, and then rely on that information to write up the requested document. But odds are good that you would be at least partially off-base. Or worse, you could be way off and the client might ask you to start from scratch. That’s quite a lot of wasted time, don’t you think? You need input and guidance from your client in order to write something that is along the lines of what they were aiming for.
So how can you attempt to pry this information out of their mind? There are a number of approaches to take, depending on how they best communicate:
– Prepare a list of questions. If your client is reluctant to be interviewed, or can’t find time to get on the phone with you, draft a list of in-depth questions for them to respond to at their convenience. This can help jog their memory and/or take them down new paths of thought they hadn’t considered before. The client can then either dictate responses to send you or type them up, whichever is easiest.
– Schedule a phone discussion. Some clients prefer to have live discussions, in which case you will want to schedule a phone call or meeting during which you pummel them with questions (in a nice way, of course). You should have questions developed to guide the conversation and to ensure you gather all the information you need, but whether you send them to the client in advance is up to you.
– Draft an outline. If you have a general sense of what information should be included in the piece you’ve been hired to write, put together a fairly detailed outline for the client to review and react to. By asking your client to correct and add to something, rather than to fill a blank document (which can be very disconcerting), they may find it easier to give you what you need. Many people are better at responding to drafts than at creating the draft from scratch.
– Record their thoughts. Sometimes the client’s reason for not providing what you need is a lack of time. They’re traveling, they’re in meetings all day, yada, yada. So your solution in that case is to suggest they either dictate into a recorder or smartphone while driving to appointments or in between meetings. Or they can use a service like RecordMyCalls.com, which has a phone number they can call to have their monologue recorded.
I have even simply asked clients, “What can I do to help you make progress on this step? You seem to be stuck and I want to help you get unstuck.” In many cases, they can tell you exactly what they need you to do.